Wahlbangers Drum Circle Organization is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit
(based in Los Angeles, CA.) dedicated to
“Banging down walls” of stress, isolation, and stigma
& building bridges to inclusion, acceptance, and contentment
with the therapeutic benefits of group drumming.
Percussive Arts Society - Percussive Notes Magazine
May 2016 Issue...
Article by Renee E. Keller
Talking Drums: Music Creates Unity and Opens Communication
By Jeffery Wahl, visiting free-lance writer (December 2011)
This article was written after the writer unexpectedly sat in on a
Wahlbangers drum circle at a nursing home in Reseda, CA.
A North Hollywood couple is using the irresistible beat of a drum to provide medicine for the body and soul that is fun, entertaining and therapeutic. Chris and Judi Wahl, of the Wahlbangers Drum Circle Organization, use the ancient tradition of the drum circle to help foster communication and collaboration through rhythmic interplay, and have helped groups of senior citizens, veterans, developmentally disabled, and professionals in team-building exercises, and others to hit the groove with other members of their communities.
Chris, who has played with many L.A. musicians including seminal hardcore/punk icons The Flesh Eaters in the early 1980s, reflects on the positive effects the drum circles have had on some of their clients. While unloading instruments and equipment from a pickup truck parked curbside at a senior citizens’ home in Reseda, he recalls the joyful interaction of a Girl Scout troop bonding with a group of senior citizens to achieve a common rhythm and a shared sense of community.
“One of our most enthusiastic clients is 103 years old,” notes Chris as he stacks labeled boxes containing a wide variety of percussion instruments and sticks. “He was reluctant at first, and then he played up a storm until he was done,” recalls his wife Judi, who updates and maintains the website she designed at www.wahlbangersdrumcircle.org. “He said, ‘I just wanted someone to hear me,’ ” Chris says while unloading stacks of walkers that he has modified to support a plethora of percussion instruments and beautiful, individually painted drum heads that he and Judi have decorated.
The walkers encircle the perimeter of a large common room, and each is equipped with four of the festively illustrated drum heads and a tray attached to the walkers’ handlebars containing a wide assortment of percussion instruments. Chris’s 15- year- old niece Skyler and his fiercely energetic mother Donna assist in outfitting each walker with a pair of sticks and various objects to be shaken and struck, while curious seniors begin to assemble and observe the action. The set-up progresses is like a well-oiled machine, and soon the room is ringed with walkers outfitted like miniature drum sets, hand drums and various other beatable and bangable objects ready to be hit. Chris pounds out a rhythm to initiate a call-and-response that is enthusiastically returned, and the drum circle begins.
Some of the seniors begin tentatively but can’t resist Chris’s unbridled enthusiasm as he capers, clowns and cajoles them into smacking something with a good solid whack, and are soon caught up in the infectious tempo that Judi, Skyler and Donna have got their contemporaries creating. Smiles appear and shyness disappears as each player makes a percussive contribution to the unshakeable beat irresistibly enveloping the room. The rhythm becomes relentless as the entire group, except for the few listeners physically unable to play, unites in percussive collaboration, culminating in a thunderous crescendo signaled by a cry of “Ruu-ummm-mmble!” As a new beat begins, the seniors eagerly resume playing while Chris, Judi, and Donna work the crowd and Skyler keeps the groove going on a large hand drum.
As the drum circle progresses everybody gets into the act, including some members of the staff. Some seniors initiate a rhythmic pattern that signals the beginning of another call-and- response, and the room seems to shake with the resounding rejoinder of the other participants. Donna, older than some of the residents at age 77, begins a vocal rendition of the Blue Danube that sparks a sing-along as voices join in on the familiar melody that is, of course, accompanied by percussive accents from the group’s array of instruments. Chris’s final exclamation of “Ruu-ummm-mmble!!” generates an appropriately thunderous cacophony, as the team gives each player a rectangular tuned metal chime.
As the chimes are struck, the room begins to vibrate with cascading harmonies that are beautiful and ethereal. The sound assumes an almost physical presence and unites the participants in the creation of something sublime. The Wahlbangers, who have full-time jobs and organize the drum circles in their spare time, have performed an invaluable service to the folks they visited today. They brought a disparate group of people together to cooperate for a common purpose, and strengthened a community through the power of music.
Wahlbangers Drum Circle Organization
has a press packet available upon request ~
or contact us for more information!